The bag man cometh

There’s probably no one on the Sacramento City Council that Team K.J. would like to get rid of more than Kevin McCarty.

McCarty’s led the fight against strong mayor, been skeptical of arena subsidies and outmaneuvered the mayor on redistricting. He just generally refuses to do as told. Some call this evidence of the “dysfunction” at City Hall. But don’t believe everything you read in the papers.

The mayor’s surrogate campaign to win a more pliable council has been gossiped about. But Bites was initially dubious about a rumor going around that developer and Kevin Johnson ally Jon Bagatelos would try to take out McCarty for his District 6 council seat this year.

Turns out Bagatelos is indeed being recruited by business groups and the police union to run against McCarty. “I’m definitely interested, because I think Sacramento needs a change,” Bagatelos told Bites last week.

He’s acutely aware he’ll be called carpetbagger. That’s because Bagatelos lives in East Sacramento, not in District 6 (which spans the southeast sections of the city). Plus, he’s a Republican, eyeballing a district which has tended to favor lefties like McCarty, Dave Jones and Darrell Steinberg.

He got blown out in a GOP primary for the 10th Assembly District back in 2002. He didn’t live in that district then either, but instead rented a friend’s bedroom in Carmichael in order to qualify as a candidate—according to a Sacramento Bee story at the time. His opponent Alan Nakanishi told the Bee, “He needs a map.”

Until recently, Bagatelos was mentioned as a possible GOP candidate for the new 8th Assembly District (Arden Arcade, Rancho Cordova down to Wilton. Doesn’t include East Sac).

If he does run for council, at least his family’s business, Bagatelos Architectural Glass Systems, is off 65th Street. And he says he also owns a house in Campus Commons, in the district,which could help satisfy the residency requirement.

More importantly, Bites asked Bagatelos how he would better serve the district than McCarty, once he does move in. “I would never say he hadn’t served the district,” Bagatelos clarified. He said he was more concerned about “universal issues,” starting with the “acrimony and division on the council.”

Bagatelos is a major proponent of Johnson’s strong-mayor proposals. He gave tens of thousands of dollars to the first strong-mayor initiative; around the time, Bagatelos was also appointed by Johnson to the Sacramento City Planning Commission.

He’s been associated with the so-called Sacramento 60, business leaders supporting the mayor and pushing for changes at City Hall.

He says it’s time for the city make the mayor a strong executive, and that the city manager should answer to the mayor and not to “nine political bosses. That’s a recipe for disaster.”

“I think the proof is out there that things aren’t getting done in this city,” Bagatelos added.

With Rob Fong and Sandy Sheedy not running again, “things are moving in the right direction,” he said. Maybe Team K.J. is starting to think sweep?

Not so fast, says McCarty’s campaign consultant, Andrew Acosta.

“I think the people of District 6 are going to want someone like Kevin [McCarty] who is going to fight for their neighborhoods,” Acosta said. “If they want someone who is going to rubber-stamp the mayor’s agenda, they probably would be more interested in Bagatelos,” he added.

Interestingly, Bagatelos said if elected he would only serve a single four-year term. Bites said that made it sound like he was primarily running to get rid of McCarty, which he denied.

“I want to clean up the mess, and I don’t think I’ll need more than four years to do it.”